Geography
Japan consists of many different islands, the main ones being, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which are the country’s largest. Japan’s closest neighbors include Korea, Russia and China. The Sea of Japan separates Japan from the Asian continent.


Japan\'s area is larger than, for example, Germany\'s and comparable to the one of Italy or California. Japan\'s northernmost islands are located approximately on same geographical latitude as Milan or Portland while her southernmost islands are about on the same latitude as the Bahamas. In other words, Japan\'s North South extension equals about the distance from Oslo to Naples. More than 50% of the area of Japan is mountainous and covered by forests. Japan is politically structured in 8 regions and 47 prefectures.


Japan is prone to both earthquakes and volcanoes. This is because of the geographical position that Japan is located in. The most famous volcano that Japan experience is Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji can be seen from Tokyo, the country’s capital, when the weather is clear and is the highest point in all of Japan.


The reason for Japan’s numerous earthquakes is because of its location on the borders of where many tectonic plates meet. This means that when the plates, below the earth’s surface, move it creates friction on the earth above, and, thus creating movement.


Japans climate is very varied throughout the whole continent. The main city’s climate, including Tokyo, is temperate to subtropical and consists of four seasons. The winter is mild but when it is summer there is an early rainy season, followed by typhoons that hit every year in parts of the country during late summer. The summer that Japan experiences are very hot and humid, Hokkaido, a northern island experiences a very cold winter that bring about cold snowstorms. This differs remarkably from Okinawa where the winter is a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius.


Religion





The two major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. They have coexisted in the same country for many years and, in some cases, even complemented each other. The feeling of just belonging to one religion in most countries is very rare in Japan. Many people in Japan consider themselves Shinto-Buddhists or even get married in a western or ‘Christian’ way even if they themselves are not Christians. This is because of the influence that the western world has provided for the Japanese people.


Shinto is deeply rooted in the Japanese way of life and in their traditions. This means that propaganda or preaching, linked with Shinto, is very uncommon. In contrast to many monotheist religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits. Consequently, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami.


Buddhism, another main religion excepted in Japan, originated in India in the 6th century BC. It consists of the teachings of the Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha. Of the main branches of Buddhism, it is the Mahayana or "Greater Vehicle" Buddhism, which found its way to Japan.


Buddhism was imported to Japan via China and Korea in form of a present from the friendly Korean kingdom of Kudara (Paikche) in the 6th century. While the ruling nobles welcomed Buddhism, as Japan\'s new state religion, it did not initially spread among the common people due to its complex theories.


90% of Japan’s population consider themselves to be of the Shinto religion, 75% of Japan’s population consider themselves to be of the Buddhist religion. The over lapse of the percentages in attributed to the fact that many people in Japan believe themselves to be both Shinto and Buddhist.


There are many different religions that have spread throughout Japan. Some of these include: Confucianism, Christianity and Islam. Confucianism is one of the three main Japanese religions and originated from China. The great philosopher Confucius (Kong Fu Zi) lived in China from 551 to 479 BC. The influence that Confucianism has had on Japan has been massive and is very evident today.


Today, about one to two million Japanese are Christians (about 1% of Japan\'s population). Most of them live in Western Japan where the missionaries\'